Some encouraging NAPLAN stories last week show all is not lost for literacy and learning, and therefore our future business writers. A Herald report said the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority had identified seven Hunter schools as demonstrating "substantially above average gain" in achievement compared to the national average.
Kirstie Yeo, principal of one of those schools, Mount Hutton Public, said: "... great teaching is the best preparation for learning ... We don't want them to be anxious about [NAPLAN], we want them to see it as another day to show us how great they are."
Elermore Vale Public, Charlestown South Public, St Columban's at Mayfield and Maitland Christian School achieved above-average gains in reading from years three to five. Elermore Vale made a priority of providing extra resources such as new reading texts, computer programs linked to literacy, professional development for teachers, and access to expert coaches.
St Columban's also targeted literacy. Principal Danielle Reed said: "The use of a structured literacy block each day, using explicit instruction and teacher modelling, has resulted in an increased percentage of students scoring in the upper bands for NAPLAN."
Ah, "explicit instruction", which involves a teacher taking an active role in the classroom and directing a structured, step-by-step program when introducing students to content matter and skills.
On the same day of the Herald's report, another newspaper ran a story about Dawson Park Primary School in Perth's foothills. Under the heading "Principal explicit on benefits of NAPLAN" the story noted Dawson Park Primary had "embraced explicit instruction in recent years, which had boosted students' results and put the traditional teaching technique back on the radar".
Traditional teaching technique back on the radar.
In the past five years, Dawson Park Primary had gone from under-performing in most of the NAPLAN literacy and numeracy categories to posting scores substantially above the national average.
Dawson Park principal Pauline Johnson lauded NAPLAN. "In every part of life there are tests," she said. "Actually, our students see NAPLAN as an opportunity to showcase their skills. And for us it validates what we are doing with our children." Dawson Park staff were instructed in teaching phonological awareness to beginner readers. Further programs followed, aimed at developing student mastery in spelling and maths.
Which brings me to another story I saw recently under the headline "School hires proof reader to catch teachers' spelling errors". Responsibilities included "correcting spelling mistakes, poor or missing punctuation, incorrect capitalisation and improving poor grammar".
Perhaps time for some "oId school" explicit teaching there, for everyone's sake.
Darrell Croker is senior coach at Write For Impact